Srila Prabhupada

Short Biography of Srila Prabhupada    Srila Prabhupada Reveals Vrindavana to the World
Srila Prabhupada's Bhajan Kutira    Srila Prabhupada's Samadhi 

Short Biography of Srila Prabhupada

His Divine grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada appeared in a family of Krishna conscious devotees in 1896 in Calcutta, India. From childhood he showed the signs of a pure devotee of the Lord, engaging in kirtanas and Krishna conscious plays in school. His father, Gour Mohan De, gave him proper spiritual training.

Srila Prabhupada first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami (1874–1937), in Calcutta in 1922. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, part of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya chain of disciplic succession, was a great exponent and scholar of Krishna conscious philosophy and the founder of sixty-four Gaudiya Mathas (Vedic institutes) in India. At their first meeting, Srila Prabhupada received instructions that would help inspire him to bring about a spiritual revolution in the world. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati said, “You are an educated young man. Why don’t you preach Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s message throughout the whole world?” Although the genuine followers of the Vedas had worshiped Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, since time immemorial, their philosophy and transcendental literature had remained unknown outside India. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati convinced Srila Prabhupada that spreading the teachings of Krishna consciousness was the most important work he could do, and in 1933 Srila Prabhupada became his formally initiated disciple.

In 1944 Srila Prabhupada founded Back to Godhead, an English fortnightly magazine expounding the transcendental science of Krishna consciousness. Using his own money and working with no assistants, he wrote, edited, proofread, printed, and distributed the magazine throughout northern India. The magazine is now being continued by his disciples in the West.

In 1950 Srila Prabhupada retired from married life, adopting the vanaprastha (retired) order to devote more time to his studies and writing. He traveled to the holy city of Vrindavana, where he lived in humble circumstances in the historic temple of Radha-Damodara. There he engaged for several years in deep study and writing. He accepted the renounced order of life (sannyasa) in 1959. At Radha-Damodara, Srila Prabhupada began work on his life’s masterpiece: a multivolume commentated translation of Srimad-Bhαgavatam (Bhagavata Purana). The Srimad-Bhagavatam, an encyclopedic scripture, is often called “the cream of the Vedic literature” because it deals exclusively with the Supreme Lord, His devotees, His transcendental pastimes, and the science of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. 

Srila Prabhupada struggled alone, writing and editing the great work and collecting funds to print the first three volumes. After completing the first volume, he presented a copy to the then prime minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri, who appreciated his scholarly work.

In 1965 the way was finally cleared for Srila Prabhupada to embark on his historic journey to the West. Sumati Morarji, an admirer and the owner of the Scindia steamship lines, gave him free passage aboard the cargo ship Jaladuta, and in August 1965, a few days before his sixty-ninth birthday, he left India with a crate of his Srimad-Bhagavatams, a pair of hand cymbals, and forty Indian rupees (about seven dollars).

The forty-day journey proved arduous. A few days out to sea, the Jaladuta passed through heavy storms, and Srila Prabhupada suffered not only sea-sickness but also two heart attacks on successive nights. During the third night Lord Krishna appeared to him in a dream and urged him on, assuring him of all protection. The attacks did not recur.

When the Jaladuta docked at Boston harbor on September 17, 1965, Srila Prabhupada wrote, 

My dear Lord Krishna, You are so kind upon this useless soul, but I do not know why You have brought me here. Now You can do whatever You like with me. . . . How will I make the Westerners understand the message of Krishna consciousness? I am very unfortunate, unqualified, and most fallen. Therefore, I am seeking Your benediction so that I can convince them, for I am powerless to do so on my own.

Then, after a short stay with a sympathetic couple in Butler, Pennsylvania, Srila Prabhupada entered the world’s leading metropolis, New York City. Throughout the winter of 1965–66 he struggled alone in the cold climate, selling a few copies of his Srimad-Bhagavatams to curious strangers. With the help of a few new friends, he eventually moved to Manhattan’s Lower East Side, renting an apartment and a small storefront at 26 Second Avenue.

The word soon spread among young seekers of spiritual truth that an Indian swami had come with a special spiritual yoga method, the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra. In July 1966 Srila Prabhupada officially formed the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Soon he took his small band of disciples to nearby Washington Square Park for their first public chanting of Hare Krishna. Despite his strict rules—no meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxication, or gambling—he quickly attracted a small but dedicated following.

Before long Srila Prabhupada had opened centers in San Francisco, Montreal, Boston, Los Angeles, and Buffalo. He introduced to the West the ancient Ratha-yatra chariot festival, now held in major cities throughout the world. In 1972 His Divine Grace introduced the Vedic system of primary and secondary education in the West by founding the gurukula school in Dallas, Texas. Since then his disciples have established similar schools throughout the United States and the rest of the world.

Srila Prabhupada inspired some of his followers to set up Krishna conscious farms under the banner of “simple living and high thinking,” and he also inspired the construction of several large international cultural centers in India. These include the Shree Chaitanya-chandrodaya Mandir in Mayapura, near Calcutta, the Krishna-Balaram Temple and Guesthouse in Vrindavana, near Delhi, and a large temple complex in Bombay. Before Srila Prabhupada passed away in 1977, he had seen his Hare Krishna movement spread around the world, with centers in most of the major cities of North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

Although constantly traveling—he made no less than twelve world tours in as many years—Srila Prabhupada never stopped writing on the science of Krishna consciousness, completing more than fifty books in English. Many have been translated into other languages, and more than 500 million pieces of his literature have been distributed worldwide. Wherever Srila Prabhupada stayed, he translated Vedic scripture and nurtured his disciples and the movement.

Srila Prabhupada accomplished these inconceivable feats between the ages of sixty-nine and eight-one through great personal effort and unshakable faith in Krishna. Only a brief summary of his transcendental achievements is given here. For the complete biography, write or call the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. 

It is clear that Srila Prabhupada was not an ordinary devotee of God, or even an ordinary guru. rather, he was a great saint empowered by the Lord to teach the people of the world the science of Krishna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada’s most significant contribution in this regard is his books. Highly respected by the academic community for their authority, depth, and clarity, ­they serve as standard textbooks in numerous college courses. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, established in 1972 to publish his works, has become the world’s largest publisher in the field of Indian religion and philosophy. Srila Prabhupada’s books, and his movement, promise to occupy a significant place in the world’s intellectual, cultural, and spiritual life for a long time to come.


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